Today marks six years since I received the news that I had cancer. Six years (and likely quite a few more before I was diagnosed) that I have been living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. For those of you who know a lot about my diagnosis, you realize what a huge deal this is. Unfortunately, you don't hear of many women living beyond a few years with this diagnosis, even less living more than five years, and here I am at six! And doing quite well, if I do say so myself. ;)
I remember when I first started to wrap my brain around my stage IV diagnosis, I researched all I could about it and searched high and low for stories of women living six or seven years with this. I scoured the internet, went to all sorts of support groups, attended conferences all over the country, spent hours in online chat rooms and discussion boards. I was desperate....desperately seeking a story that could give me hope. A story that would help me feel like I wasn't living in total denial when I dreamed of living more than two or three years with this disease. I will never forget how it felt to finally hear a story of someone not just living, but truly enojoying a good quality of life, six years in with MBC. It was like I could finally exhale just a little bit and it gave me hope that if that person could get there, so could I.
Early on, I set a goal that I just desperately wanted to make it to my 40th birthday. How insane is that to now have the perspective at 29 years old to pray, "Please God, let me at least live until I am 40." I still repeat that same prayer and I am so grateful that on Tuesday I was able to celebrate another birthday and another great year on this Earth. I have five more to go to get to that big 4-0, but I now believe I will be sticking around for quite a few more after that.
You all know that it hasn't been an easy year for me with this disease. In fact, one of the most difficult yet as I dealt with another recurrence, more bone pain, another bout of high dose radiation, a fourth surgery, and the start of a new and intense treatment that has left my counts in the gutter. There have been many emotionally difficult times, where I have truly questioned God and cried out in frustration that this is the road my life has to travel. But as I have said before, the good days far outweigh the bad. The laughter FAR outweighs the tears. And at the end of the day, living with this deadly disease has given me a perspective on life that you just cannot have otherwise...unless you truly have to cope with the thought of your death in an extremely real way.
I am grateful each and every day for the life God has provided for me.
I am grateful for the countless other ways that I am extremely healthy aside from this cancer.
I am grateful that I am able to endure all of these treatments as well as I do.
I am grateful that on most days I am very easily able to count all of my blessings.
I am grateful for amazing friends that help me see those blessings when the days are more difficult.
I am grateful for the medical team at Karmanos Cancer Institute that treat me like family rather than just another patient.
I am grateful for a family who loves me fiercly and would do anything for me.
I am grateful for an absolutely incredible mother who I cannot imagine life without.
And of course, I am grateful for Mike. My insanely patient, loving and supportive husband. I completely mean it when I say I truly don't think I could live this life without him - he listens without trying to "fix" me when I need to vent about my feelings, he lets me cry and break down when I need to, and he makes me laugh harder than anyone else I know. He will forever be the greatest blessing of my life.
Thank you to all of you reading this for loving and supporting me these last six years. Thank you for your prayers, well wishes, good vibes, healing thoughts....whatever the case may be. Whether you know it or not, you have each helped hold me up and supported me along this journey, and for that I am forever grateful.
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